Scattered firewood collected and stacked once more in his arms Einar finished the quick walk back to the cabin, piling some of the stuff against one wall of the tunnel for easy access during the storm and hauling the rest in to its spot beside the stove, quickly glancing away when Liz gave him an inquisitive look that told him she surely must have heard the clatterment caused by his little spill, must be wondering about it. Didn’t especially want to go there. Change the subject. Which he did, but to no avail. She already knew; he could see it in her eyes. One more reason to stare at the floor. It’s usually safer just to stare at the floor. Or the ceiling. Lots of interesting patterns on the ceiling, paths one can follow with one’s eyes, the meanderings of long-deceased borer-beetles in the wood of a fir, leaving paths that stand out more yellow than the surrounding wood, beautiful in their own way and leaving some of the beams to somewhat resemble driftwood, smooth but subtly nuanced and… Liz was staring. Expected him to say something, apparently. So he did.
“Storm’s coming in. It’s already starting to snow out there, and the wind’s really ripping along the ridge. Looks like we may be in for a big one.”
“I thought it felt like the weather was really starting to change. I sure hope Bud and Susan got where they were going. Do you think Roger already came and picked them up?”
Einar shook his head. “Really doubt it. They’d have been doing real well to cover half the distance up to their meeting spot yesterday, bad as Kilgore’s leg was looking. Sure, he had lots of energy starting out, but that sort of thing can wear a fellow out real badly, especially in the deep snow. And even if they made it and were waiting, I don’t think the plane’s come yet. We’d have heard it from here. And it’s not likely at all to come now, not with the way the wind’s ripping snow up off that ridge in huge long streamers…Kiesl’s one crazy pilot, but not even he would be real likely to attempt that. Looks like they’ve got themselves some waiting to do, up there.”
“It’s going to be a cold, windy wait….”
He nodded. No doubt about that. “Figure I might as well go down after that cache today, while this storm lasts.”
Liz didn’t immediately respond, listening to the wind as it finally reached their sheltered basin, rushing through acre upon acre of lithe, flexible evergreens with a sound akin to a mountain river at high water and slamming into the side of the cabin with such force that the logs creaked. Thought Einar was, quite frankly, something bordering on crazy for wanting to go so soon after his last trip and with his legs still barely able to support him, but saw little point in mentioning the fact. Had a better idea. “How are you going to get it back up here? Can I come help?”
Could she? Sure she could, had a good snug way to carry the baby and his food went with her wherever she might go, always warmed to the perfect temperature and ready to serve, so no problem there, but even still, he didn’t want her along. Worried that if anything happened to him--which seemed not altogether unlikely, considering the difficulty he was still having in getting around, remaining conscious at critical moments--she might put herself and the baby in danger trying to help remedy the situation. If he was to end up face down in the snow, he’d really much rather do it by himself, thanks very much, with his family safe and warm in the cabin until he could make his way back to them. Then again, he couldn’t exactly ask her to remain housebound if she was ready to get out and about again. He shrugged, wished he had a good answer.
“Plan on hauling it up, just like I did Kilgore. Gonna rig a better harness this time, though. Wide leather straps, and pad them with rabbit furs or something, in the front. That paracord really tore me up.”
“Yes, I know it did. Bone was showing, on one of your hips. The cuts it gave you really haven’t even started to heal, and that’s one reason why I think you really ought to consider waiting on this whole thing, but if you’re going, Will and I would like to come along. If nothing else, I could help pull sometimes. The way the parka’s set up, I could both pull and carry him at the same time. And I’d be there to help the load over fallen trees and things when it gets hung up. It would save time and effort, both. And give me a little peace of mind. I really don’t want to be waiting for you up here in this storm, wondering what’s going on out there…please.”
“Lizzie, you know there are times when I just need to do something myself, go out and test myself against…whatever it may be…but if you want to come along on this one, sure. I know you’re probably itching to get out again, yourself, after the birth and lying low with the little one and all, but you got to promise me that you won’t let anything get in the way of your looking out for him. He’s got to come first, and if helping to haul the load starts getting in the way of that, you got to let me do it alone. Ok?”
“Einar, of course! You really don’t even have to ask.” She sat down beside him, pulled out the single wolverine claw that he’d given her to wear around her neck. “I’m a mama wolverine, you know, and nothing comes between the mama wolverine and her little one. Nothing at all, not even his father, so you’d better be good and sure that you’re ready for this little excursion, because I’m certainly not carrying you both back up here!”
Though a bit surprised at the forcefulness of her assertion, Einar was glad. Hoped she’d stick to it if need be, but determined not to make necessary such a test, if it could be at all avoided. Which meant, amongst other things, getting a few good meals in him that day. Was still having a great deal of difficulty with his digestion and with avoiding dehydration in the wake of each fresh bout of those troubles, but*figured the food must be doing him some measure of good, giving him a bit of energy, at least, if not yet much else. Speaking of food, Liz’s breakfast was ready, and eating it seemed a good place to start. He picked up little Will, who had wakened and was beginning to fuss, and joined her beside the stove to share the morning meal as outside the wind picked up and a heavier snow began to fall.